HC Deb 25 June 1956 vol 555 cc13-5
21. Mr. Dye

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the guaranteed prices for fat cattle which the producers will receive in February, 1957, and the comparable prices for February, 1956 and 1955.

Mr. Amory

The guaranteed standard price for each month of the fatstock year 1956–57 is 151s. per live cwt. compared with 138s. 8d. in 1955–56 and 133s. 2d. in 1954–55. The returns received by producers in February next will depend upon market prices and payments due under the guarantees. Neither of these I am able to forecast.

Mr. Dye

Is it not this inability to forecast the actual income by farmers from fat cattle when marketed which has undermined their confidence in the guaranteed price of fat cattle?

Mr. Amory

I think the hon. Gentleman is aware that the present system is that the payments due represent the difference between the average market price over a period of 52 weeks prior to the date of payment and the standard price. I have always said that that system is the best which it has been possible to devise so far in consultation with the representatives of the producers. If we can find a better way of doing this we shall be very glad to consider it at any time, but it is so far the best system which has been found in the general interest.

Mr. T. Williams

Is it not the case that in the deficiency payments system for fat cattle there is no such thing as a guaranteed price?

Mr. Amory

I should have liked to have incorporated into my reply an expression of welcome to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) on his return to the House. I am afraid that in this case I find it rather difficult to make that relevant to the Question.

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the present arrangement represents a collective guarantee payable to the industry as a whole. We made it clear in the last White Paper that the payment actually received by producers would not necessarily represent over a given twelve months exactly the guaranteed sum. It might be a little more or a little less. In some cases it has proved already, in the last year or two, to have worked out at an over-payment.

Mr. Baldwin

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that to give more stability to future prices, instead of using this rolling average which many of us look upon as fatuous, he should use the deficiency payments in the same way as he deals with wheat?

Mr. Amory

There are real differences between providing for a commodity like wheat and a perishable commodity like livestock, as my hon. Friend will be well aware.